As a science, we teach correct biomechanics, the laws of physics as they apply to the sport, and focus on principles and concepts. As a sport, we teach correct posture and movement, help develop balance, coordination, strength, endurance, and physical and mental toughness. Acquiring these skills provides a foundation that later transfers to any other sport.
In addition to the physical attributes, our founder Jigaro Kano created judo to develop the moral character of a person. As a philosophy, we follow Kano’s message by teaching discipline, self-respect, and respect for others. As students attain physical and mental toughness and all the other physical attributes, they increase their confidence.
In the end, this is really what judo is all about and why so many people around the world are so enamored with it. You can be four years old or eighty. It is practiced in every corner of the globe. It is a science, a sport, a philosophy, a way of life.
At SoCal Judo we also advocate a life dedicated to physical, mental, and emotional wellness. To ensure good air quality and a clean workout environment, we use top of the line, chemical free cleaning products. We are proud to say that in 8 years of operation, we have never had an outbreak of ring worm or other fungal infections.
We believe your emotional and mental health affect your physical performance. We encourage all to support these systems of the body in the pursuit of complete wellness. Being an integrity driven business, we would never promote a philosophy or life style that we ourselves do not follow and practice.
Welcome to the community!
I was born in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba in 1970. I started judo at the age of 6 and by 17 years old, I was admitted into the Olympic program in Havana, Cuba. From 1987 to 1998 I competed for Cuba, earning countless international medals, including 2 Olympic bronze medals in 1992 and 1996. Upon retiring from competition in 1998, I accepted my first coaching position at the Olympic Training Center in Barcelona, Spain. I would later go on to coach various teams, including, the Puerto Rican national judo team, the Harlingen, Texas National Training Site team and finally the 2008 US Olympic judo team. From 2009-2011, I worked as a methodologist for Puerto Rico’s elite athlete program. and was the strength and conditioning and judo coach to MMA fighter Sokoudjou a.k.a The African Assassin. My wife, Valerie Hernandez, and I own SoCal Judo where I am currently the head coach. I am also a Project 2024 coach, along with US Olympic judo medalists Jimmy Pedro, Travis Stevens, Kayla Harrison, and Marti Malloy.
Formerly known as Valerie Lafon and Valerie Gotay. I am a 5th degree black belt and 2x Olympian in the sport of judo and a purple belt in Brazilian jujitsu. I am also a proud mother of 3. I have been involved in sport my whole life. I started judo at the age of four. I was trained by my father, Gerald Lafon, who now runs Judo America San Diego. My first competition was at age six. I won my first of twelve junior national titles at age seven and by thirteen I was traveling the world with the US national judo team. By age fifteen I had won my first Senior national title and in 1992, at 18 years old, I made my first Olympic team. I then retired from competition and decided to focus on my studies. I attended Miramar College then transferred to San Diego State, where I majored in psychology. In 2004, twelve years later, I made a comeback and in 2008, I made my second Olympic team, just a few months shy of 35! My husband, Israel Hernandez, and I own SoCal Judo where I am currently the manager and assistant coach.
The Press Enterprise's news clip from 2012
Israel at the 1992 Olympic Games
Valerie fighting Marti Malloy at the 2005 US Open
Valerie at the 2008 Olympic Trials
Israel 's demonstration at the Mojica 20th Anniversary Opening Ceremonies